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Drug House Odyssey

By Staff | Jan 27, 2016

An estimated 1,500 Lee County fifth-graders will witness firsthand the negative consequences of drinking and driving next week during the 23rd annual Drug House Odyssey.

Organized by the Lee County Coalition for a Drug-Free Southwest Florida, the program will be held Tuesday through Thursday at the Lee County Civic Center in North Fort Myers. The walk-through play follows a group of teens who make choices that result in different outcomes; it last about 40 minutes.

Deborah Comella, executive director of the coalition, explained that it is part of a prevention plan.

“We know that the biggest problem continues to be underage drinking,” she said. “The Drug House Odyssey deals with underage drinking prevention in a very impactful way.”

The play opens with a group of teens getting together and making some real-life decisions.

“It follows the group that decides to drink and drive,” Comella said.

A traffic accident ensues and some of the teens are arrested, while others are rushed to the hospital emergency room. All of the actors are played by actual police officers, medical staff and such.

“One of the scenes last year that resonated the most with the kids was the courtroom scene,” she said. “It shows the very real consequences of drinking and driving on teens and on their families.”

About 20 different agencies are involved, with hundreds of volunteers helping.

On Wednesday – Family Night – the program is open to the public from 5 to 7 p.m.

Statistics indicate that children try their first drink at about age 10.

“That’s why we are going it with fifth-graders,” Comella said. “This is a great conversation opener for the teachers and the parents – we don’t recommend it for kids under age 8.”

The program is free, and reservations are not required.

New this year, there will be a Prevention Village on site with information and activities.

“It’s all kinds of prevention resources for families and for kids,” she said.

For example, the Lee Memorial Health System will be on hand with “drunk googles.”

“It gives you the impression that you’re drunk and then they have you walk a line,” Comella said.

Additional information will be available on other topics, such as nutrition and health.

“We want to give parents another tool in their tool belt to talk to their kids about making good choices,” she said. “We know a lot of our kids are choosing not to drink, so we really want to keep it that way.”

According to the Florida Youth Substance Abuse Survey from 2014, Lee County students were asked about their alcohol use in the past 30 days. From 2004 to 2014, their use declined by 16.5 percent.

“So in that 10-year period, it dropped,” Comella said.

For additional information on the Drug House Odyssey, visit: www.drugfreeswfl.org.

The Lee County Civic Center is at 11831 Bayshore Road, in North Fort Myers.